Garry & Penny Marshall Died 2 Years Apart After Intertwined Careers: 'My Brother Gave Me a Life'

Laverne & Shirley star and director Penny Marshall died at age 75 on Monday, two years after her brother Garry Marshall died at age 81

He produced some of the 1970s’ and ’80s most influential TV series and went on to direct hit movies such as Pretty Woman. She got her start acting in his TV shows, then broke barriers as a female director with classics including Big and A League of Their Own. Now one of Hollywood’s most successful sibling stories has come to a close: Penny Marshall died at age 75 on Monday, a little more than two years after her brother Garry Marshall died at age 81 in July 2016.

The Marshall siblings grew up with a filmmaker father and a dance teacher mother whose disapproval Penny felt early on. “She was too bright for the territory,” Garry told PEOPLE in 1996 of Penny’s childhood in the Bronx. “There was nothing much for her to do.”

The Princess Diaries Premiere After Party
Getty

In her early years in Hollywood, Penny was pigeonholed as unattractive, The Washington Post reported.

“She’d come home in tears,” Garry later told The New York Times. “I said: ‘They’ll learn to like you. They just don’t understand you yet. They will someday.'”

Wish Night 2006 Awards Gala - Arrivals
Penny and Garry Marshall. Gregg DeGuire/WireImage

Penny’s first movie role was in a 1968 film Garry co-wrote, How Sweet It Is. Garry then gave Penny her big break by including her in the iconic shows he produced.

From 1971 to 1975, she played secretary Myrna Turner in The Odd Couple. In 1975, she debuted her Happy Days character Laverne DeFazio, a part she would revisit in Laverne & Shirley. (Garry and Penny’s sister Ronny was a casting director and their father was a co-producer for Laverne & Shirley.)

Garry also secured Penny the opportunity to direct four episodes of Laverne & Shirley, a prelude to her success as a movie director.

“My brother gave me a life,” Penny told Garry’s son Scott for Entertainment Tonight months after Garry’s 2016 death. “It’s not many people who have a brother who give them a life. He gave me a life and I appreciate it and I tried to not let him down.”

RELATED VIDEO: Julia Roberts Catches Broadway’s Pretty Woman: The Musical to Honor Director Garry Marshall

In an interview for the Television Academy Foundation, she once said, “I wouldn’t have a career if it wasn’t for my brother. Let’s be honest, he’s the one who pointed me in this direction. He got me parts. I didn’t know at the beginning they hired me so that … he would rewrite, punch up a script, the episode.”

Penny had no issue with getting a boost from her famous brother. “This is a factory business,” she told PEOPLE in 1988. “Of course the sons and daughters of people in it are going to go in it.”

Their professional relationship wasn’t all smooth sailing. In 2012, Garry told The New York Times Magazine that Laverne & Shirley “was my worst show experience.”

When the interviewer expressed surprise that Garry and Penny still talked, Garry replied, “The ’70s were druggy years on a lot of shows. It was just a mess, but of course I still talk to her. I don’t think you can tell your family that you can’t come in the house. I’ve always tried to make people happy — the only one I totally didn’t was my sister.”

Premiere of 'Exit to Eden'
Ronny Marshall, Garry Marshall and Penny Marshall. Bei/REX/Shutterstock

Penny’s 2016 interview for Entertainment Tonight took place on the set of The Odd Couple reboot in an episode that paid tribute to Garry. The episode marked her last time onscreen, according to The New York Times.

Related Articles